Owner of timber objects to ‘Clean and Green’ rates

SMETHPORT – A Smethport man is asking the McKean County Board of Commissioners to rescind a resolution setting 2013 “assessment rates” for properties enrolled in the state-authorized “Clean and Green” tax-relief program.Speaking Monday at a commissioners’ meeting, Jim Herzog said the resolution adopted two weeks ago “probably is not appropriate.”“I’d like to see you rescind it,” Herzog told Commissioners Joe DeMott, Al Pingie and Cliff Lane.Herzog specifically challenged a section of the resolution that sets the assessment rate for “Clean and Green Forest Reserve” property at $255 per acre.Herzog, who said he owns property with timber, claims the “forest reserve” assessment rate in McKean County should be only $94 per acre for “Clean and Green (C&G).”According to his two-page statement read at the meeting, Herzog said the $94-per-acre rate is “lowest fair market and use value.”“This is the use value that should be applied to C&G enrolled forest—not $255 per acre,” he said. Herzog claims “a use value above fair market value is not permitted” under the 38-year-old C&G program.The State Legislature in 1974 adopted a law that allows parcels of 10 acres or more of agricultural and forest land to be assessed at a value for that “use” rather than at the standard “fair market value.”The intent of the law is to provide tax relief to encourage property owners to retain their farms and forests rather than sell the land for development.“The general public benefits from the preservation of our farmlands, woodlands and the future heritage of our land,” the law points out.The C&G assessment rates adopted two weeks ago by the commissioners reflect 2006 recommendations from a panel established to review the program.Angie Tennies, chief assessor for the county, said the resolution adopted by the commissioners is “addressing uniformity issues with Clean and Green.”“Everybody will be set at the base rate that McKean County currently has in place for Clean and Green property,” Tennies told the commissioners last month.She said the county currently has 3,219 parcels enrolled in C&G. She said the tax relief granted under the C&G program results in a loss of $752,411 in annual county revenue.Owners of property enrolled in C&G have the right to appeal their assessments to the county Board of Assessment Appeals.According to Herzog, a “use value” of $94 per acre for “forest reserve” properties was set in 2011 by the Board of Assessment Appeals for “those properties that appealed.”After the meeting, DeMott said the commissioners would “take” Herzog’s request to rescind the C&G rate resolution “under advisement.”See full article by purchasing the July 10 edition of The Kane Republican.